The Importance of Thoroughly Reading Food Labels


Reading food labels

I cannot stress enough how important it is to carefully read ingredient lists on food labels, not just the nutritional facts found on the back of many food items.

People are becoming more health conscious than ever. The food manufacturers are well aware of this, and have found ways to market the same old junk to the health conscious people.

Seeing the term “Gluten-Free” on a food label, does not automatically mean it’s a healthy food item. Foods that are naturally gluten-free, that haven’t been processed or manipulated, are perfectly fine. But processed gluten-free food products could include refined sugars, hydrogenated fats, MSG, a chemical storm of mass proportions.

The same can be said about the term “Organic”. The word organic simply means of, relating to or deriving from living matter. This means all fruits and vegetables in their natural state are organic. This does not mean they were grown without pesticides or are not genetically modified. Humans are organic!

The food industry is seducing people into thinking certain foods are healthy by adding fancy health related words to their labels. The truth is organic sugar is still sugar and gluten-free junk food is still junk food.

One of the most common terms I see on food labels is “Whole Grain”. This can be incredibly misleading.

A whole grain includes all three parts of the kernel (or seed) of the grain:

  1. The bran is the outer layer of the grain. It provides the most fibre of the three parts and contains B vitamins, minerals and a small amount of protein.

  2. The endosperm is the biggest part of the whole grain and contains carbohydrate and protein. It provides a small amount of vitamins and minerals.

  3. The germ is the smallest part of the kernel. It provides a large amount of B vitamins, vitamin E and minerals.

Since whole grains include all of these three parts, they’re higher in fibre and have more vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients than refined grains.

Some examples of whole grains include: whole oats, brown and wild rice, barley, buckwheat, millet, quinoa.

Refining generally removes the bran and the germ, leaving only the endosperm. Without the bran and germ, about 25% of a grain’s protein is lost, and are greatly reduced in at least seventeen key nutrients. This means foods such as cereals, breads and pastas do not actually contain whole grains.

I think the term which ticks me off the most is “Natural Flavour”. This is a brilliant umbrella term the food industry uses to cover up what is usually a long list of chemicals. Here is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s exact definition from the Code of Federal Regulations:

“The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

There is nothing natural in natural flavours! For example, natural strawberry flavour is made up of over 30 chemicals.

There are approximately 14,000 food related chemicals which can be found in processed foods. When reading a food label, if you aren't sure what an ingredient is, either use your phone to google it, leave the item at the store until you can investigate further, or seek the guidance of a Certified Holistic Nutritionist.

To learn more about what my services as a Certified Holistic Nutritionist include, please visit this link: Holistic Nutrition

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